Dufferin Roblin

From Academic Kids

Dufferin Roblin, PC (born June 17, 1917) is a Canadian businessman and politician. Known as "Duff," he served as Premier of Manitoba from 1958 to 1967, and was subsequently a federal cabinet minister in the government of Brian Mulroney. He is the grandson of Sir Rodmond P. Roblin, who also served as Manitoba Premier.

Roblin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and was educated at the University of Manitoba and the University of Chicago. He was a car dealer before entering politics, and served as a Wing Commander in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1940 to 1946.

Like his grandfather, Roblin was a member of Manitoba's Conservative Party, which was renamed the Progressive Conservative Party in 1942. During the 1940s, the Manitoba Conservatives were part of a coalition government with the Liberal-Progressives, and Conservative leader Errick Willis was a prominent cabinet minister in the governments of John Bracken, Stuart Garson and Douglas Campbell.

There were opponents of the coalition in both in the Liberal and Conservative ranks. Roblin was a part of the latter group, and was elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1949 as an Independent Progressive Conservative opposing the coalition. Running in the multi-member riding of Winnipeg South, he finished well ahead of the official Progressive Conservative candidate, and soon emerged as the leading voice for anti-coalition Tories in the province.

Willis resigned as a cabinet minister in August 1950, and Progressive Conservative delegates overwhelmingly voted to leave the coalition at their annual convention later in the year. Some party members tried to convince Roblin to stand against Willis for the leadership, but he declined.

Roblin was re-elected for Winnipeg South in 1953, but the Progressive Conservative Party as a whole fared poorly, winning only 12 seats out of 57. Willis was blamed for the party's loss, and another effort was made to draft Roblin as leader.

When Willis called a leadership convention for 1954, Roblin quickly declared himself as a candidate. He built up a strong organization throughout the province, and was able to defeat Willis on the second ballot. Somewhat counter-intuitively, most of Roblin's support came from rural delegates. For the next four years, Roblin was involved in the arduous task of rebuilding a strong Progressive Conservative network throughout the province.

Ideologically, Roblin was a Red Tory. He opposed the caution and 'small-government' ideology of Liberal-Progressive Premier Douglas Campbell, and pledged to expand government services if elected. He was also fairly liberal on most social issues. While not a socialist, Roblin was unquestionably to the "left" of Campbell's Liberals (a point that he would later acknowledge in his memoirs).

Under Roblin's leadership, the Tories won a minority government in 1958. Roblin himself was elected for the new single-member constituency of Wolseley, located in the centre of Winnipeg. His government quickly enacted a series of progressive reforms, which were supported by the social democratic Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. Roblin was thereby able to build up a successful legislative record, and won the support of many centre-left voters who were previously uncommitted. His government lost a parliamentary vote of confidence in 1959, but was re-elected with majority status (36 of 57 seats) later in the year.

Roblin's government upgraded highways, created parks, and built the Red River Floodway around Winnipeg, popularly known as "Duff's Ditch". It reintroduced French language instruction in schools, modernized hospitals, expanded social spending and strengthened social welfare programs. It also improved postsecondary education, and promoted urban development by consolidating the various municipalities in the Winnipeg area into a single metropolitan entity. In the field of primary education, Roblin's ministry brought Manitoba's system of one-room schoolhouses into the modern era by building consolidated schools. The Progressive Conservatives were re-elected with landslide mandates in the 1963 and 1967 elections, and Roblin never faced any serious competition in his own riding.

Roblin resigned in 1967 to run for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party at its 1967 leadership convention. He ran a strong campaign, but placed second to Nova Scotia Premier Robert Stanfield.

Roblin was a candidate in Winnipeg South Centre for the 1968 federal election, but lost to Liberal E.B. Osler by over 10,000 votes. Roblin was hurt by an unpopular provincial sales tax introduced by his government, as well as the more general "Trudeaumania" phenomenon. In 1970, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

In the 1974 federal election, Roblin ran for the House of Commons in the Ontario riding of Peterborough. He was soundly defeated by Liberal Hugh Faulkner, and would later refer to the entire campaign as a lapse in judgement.

In 1978, Roblin was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, officially representing the Manitoba region of Red River. He was the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate during Joe Clark's brief tenure as Prime Minister (1979-1980), and served as Deputy Opposition Leader from 1980 to 1984.

Following Brian Mulroney's landslide victory in the 1984 election, Roblin was appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate, and served in Mulroney's cabinet until June 29, 1986. In this capacity, he was particularly interested in matters relating to African economic development.

Roblin retired from the Senate on June 17, 1992, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. He received the President's Award of the Winnipeg Press Club in 1999, and published his memoirs (entitled "Speaking for Myself") in the same year.

Preceded by:
Douglas L. Campbell
Premier of Manitoba
Succeeded by:
Walter Weir

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